Many of the greatest ideas and advances in history occur when someone takes an idea from one area of expertise, and applies it in another. For this reason, I spend a lot of time listening to, reading about, and speaking with experts in a wide variety of disciplines outside of sales.
Not too long ago, I was listening to Shane Parrish's interview with Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow. The interview was certainly not about a sales topic, and definitely not targeting sales consultants, but one thing he said toward the end really struck me.
Shane asked Daniel (53:53 in) to share a time when he had given advice as a consultant that nobody followed. His answer:
“Literally, all the advice I give, people don’t follow. You’re not going to be a consultant if you expect your advice to be taken.”
I think a lot of sales consultants can identify with this statement at some level. It can be intensely frustrating to help a sales team see exactly what they need to do in order to reach the next level in their performance, and then watch them simply… not do it.
Yet it happens all the time.
If you’re a sales consultant then hopefully, at least some of your clients follow at least some of your advice at least some of the time. But it’s almost certain that it’s not happening as often as you wish it were.
There are lots of reasons this can happen, but the main one is that understanding a problem is easy, designing a solution is a little harder, but actually following through to change activities and behaviors and habits is extremely difficult.
Humans have a tendency to prefer to do things the way they’ve always done them.
And that preference is a strong anti-motivator to change.
Traditionally, many consultants have been happy to take a company’s money, churn out a strategy, provide training, and then wish them well in execution.
It’s a nice, comfortable business model for as long as it works. It generates profit, it’s fun, and it leaves the messy details to someone else.
But there are lots of good reasons why consultants and trainers, especially now, should care a lot more about what happens to their advice after they give it.
For one thing, organizations are examining their budgets much more closely now than ever before. They are more likely than ever to cut things that they haven’t seen a return on. And consultants, unfortunately, have gained a reputation on the whole for being overpaid and underperforming.
Consultants who can actually help companies to execute on their advice and strategies, to make it actionable in the field, and reinforce the right habits and behavior changes to create a measurable ROI will enjoy both job security and high demand for more.
In an environment where everyone is demanding more for less and expecting accountability, consultants who can learn to marry both strategy and execution will lead the field, while others are likely to gradually die out.
Kahneman says virtually nobody ever follows his advice.
That’s a statement that catches my attention, for sure. He says you can’t even be a consultant if you expect people to follow your advice.
With all due respect - and I respect him a great deal - I disagree.
I don’t see the point of consulting if people aren’t going to take at least some and hopefully most of your valuable advice.
It is difficult, however. Getting an organization to change the way they do sales is an uphill battle against powerful human forces: Confirmation bias, resistance to change, long-standing bad habits, and much more.
That doesn’t make it impossible.
The key to getting people to take your advice, is to help them find their motivation, provide them with not only a plan for action, but also the tools, ongoing reinforcement, and coaching, to put the plan in action.
Yes, your clients need strategy and training, and they need content enablement. They also need processes/playbooks and checklists. And they need it right inside the workflow of the people on the front lines - the salespeople and their managers.And they need quality coaching.
No salesperson ever comes to the manager’s office and asks to read that giant strategy manual on the shelf (if there is one) so they can apply its principles in their next sales call.
An important way salespeople can consistently change and improve their day to day activities and behaviors is by having reinforcement of the new behaviors directly inside the workflow where they live.
In most cases, that’s the CRM. But it was build to store data, not to drive behaviors...
You see where this is going by now, if you’ve been following me for long.
You need your CRM to actually guide salespeople from step to step, milestone to milestone, stage to stage, in taking the correct actions, learning the right skills, and collaborating effectively.
You need them to be able to see what’s next at a glance. You need them to be able to access training and coaching insights in the moment when they need it. You need them to be able to grab the right content at the right time for the right customer. They need to get coaching at the right time, for the right reasons, which means that they need data to understand what is working and what is not.
And you need them not to be switching among applications to get it.
As a sales consultant you really want this to be the new norm for your clients. When you can help them not only plan the way they sell, but also implement the way they sell, you come out lightyears ahead of your competition - including the most fierce competitor, which is “Do Nothing.”
I would love to show you how our partnership approach helps sales consultants accomplish more with their clients, make more money, and lead the pack - all while enjoying the satisfaction of seeing clients actually take their advice. Your customers will love you when they see your advice work for them in daily operations!
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.
Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn